So last week's grumbling about the art of the "DCnU" books doesn't bear as much weight this week. Of the seven books I picked up this week I can say that I loved the art in over half of them, I mean J.H. Williams III on Batwoman and Doug Mahnke on Green Lantern are two of the premiere artists in comics right now. Then there's the lesser known CAFU and Bit on Grifter (their ultra-clean lines impressed me on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and just as much here) and Fernando Dagnino on Resurrection Man may not be the conventional "hot" artist, but his Gene Colan aesthetic is so perfect for the title. That said, the other three books I picked up, the art didn't leave me so keen. I talk about how Gianluca Gugliotta fails Mister Terrific in this week's Thor's Comic Column , but I forget to mention that he doesn't even seem to understand Terrific's mask is supposed to be a "T", and not just a mask. Had Marco Rudy (whom I called attention to on this blog waaaay back) handled the duties on Suicide Squad I would have liked the book a lot more than I already do, as it stood it had two decent artists with somewhat competing styles on the first issue making it look like a rush job. While I just plain didn't care for the art on Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. from Alberto Ponticelli. Ponticelli has a loosey goosey freehand style which reminds me of JJ Birch (aka Joe Brozowski), another artist with a similar style who illustrated two of my favourite books (Firestorm and Xombi) yet I've never appreciated his work much. Ponticelli wouldn't be a bad fit for the Frankenstien book if it were mainly monsters, but they coexist with some wild super-science like Ray Palmer's microscopic fortress inside a floating, 3-inch indestructible sphere that you have to teleport into. Plentiful tech and architectural flourishes need more structure, freehand doesn't quite cut it, unless perhaps you're Geoff Darrow, but this guy isn't Geoff Darrow.
Another word on art. I picked up a copy of Animal Man #1 this week (and for cover price, not $22 bucks on ebay thank you very much) and it's a solid solid read, however Travel Foreman's art looked, well, awkward, like it was fading away on the page, while on the various previews I've seen on computers and even my iPod, it looked a lot better. Same goes for Ponticelli's work on Frankenstein. Even just looking at the panel on screen above it looks pretty good, yet reading over the title twice, I really, really didn't like his art. Could it be that some artists work just look better digitally or in a compressed form. I wonder if Animal Man or Frankestein were printed in Archie digest-sized whether it would look better on paper?
On the non-art front, something else I noticed (as mentioned above) is "super-science" seems to be making a comeback, featured quite prominently in both Frankenstein and Mister Terrific. As soon as these concepts were busted out (like the S.H.A.D.E. base or the T-Sanctuary) I started to smile. These kinds of things have been somewhat abandoned in the past couple decades as superheroes have driven for a more natural or plausible or grounded-in-(quasi-reality) sensibility, and I'm glad to see Eric Wallace and Jeff Lemire bringing the fun back. Hopefully we see more of this.
One of the other trends I've noticed with "The New 52" so far is the plethora of compressed storytelling. People have long complained about how "decompressed" comics have become, well, to them I say take a look at Static or Mister Terrific or Resurrection Man or Frankenstein or Stormwatch and in some cases you might find yourself overwhelmed with information to process (Mister Terrific is example-prime). Hopefully they temper their info-dumps in future issues.
So I'm going to rank the titles I've bought so far from top down what I've enjoyed the most to the least:
1. Grifter (seriously, this book is amazing, like if They Live starred the character Sawyer from Lost instead of Roddy Piper)
2. Batwoman (J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman may not be as phenomenal writers as Greg Rucka, but they're still pretty great, and Chase is back! This doesn't really miss a beat from Batwoman's last issue of Detective Comics, so it's still kind of feels like the warm comforts of the old DCU.)
3. Animal Man (oh, it's as good as you heard, and if you haven't heard anything about it, then it's better than you're expecting, wonky art and all)
4. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (it's funny that Jeff Lemire is working in the shadow of Grant Morrison on two titles yet forging his own way with both of them. Despite highly disliking the art I loved everything else about this book)
5. Action Comics (if you're going to reinvent Superman, this is a pretty damn good way to do it. It's not perfect but it is pretty exciting, and certain better than anything in 10 seasons of Smallville)
6. Suicide Squad (okay, they de-aged and sexy'd up Amanda Waller, which is, you know, really wrong, about as wrong as tarting up Harley Quinn, but this book has what it takes to be successor to the Secret Six. Issue two is going to be ah-may-zing).
The Not Bad
7. Men of War (would probably rank in "the good" were it not for an unspectacular back-up feature lofting the price up $1)
8. Resurrection Man (I love that he's back, I like where it's going, I'm super keen on the artist, this first issue just moved too quickly and robbed us of seeing the plane crash)
9. Stormwatch (It was a bit of a whirlwind of introducing characters and identifying the tweaks to them, as well as establishing Stormwatch's rich, Planetary-style history. With this issue out of the way it should get better)
10. Green Lantern (Doug Mahnke's art is some of the best stuff ever, and I like Sinestro as "the" Green Lantern, but, jesus, Hal's a crappy character).
The I Hope They Get Better
11. Mister Terrific (It'll get better if a] Eric Wallace takes it easy on the sub-plots already, b] they get a new artist, which I hear is in the works, and c] I learn how to spell "terrific" without spell-check)
12. Static Shock (Pacing, Scott McDaniel, pacing. I love Static and really want him to succeed, but the first issue just didn't click)
The I Just Don't Care
13. Batgirl (meh)
14. Justice League (meh)